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Expedition 41 Trio Waits for Dragon and New Soyuz – September 22, 2014

The three residents aboard the International Space Station have an extra day to prepare for the arrival of SpaceX CRS-4. Dragon’s launch slipped into Sunday morning after unacceptable weather conditions at the launch site prevented its early Saturday morning liftoff from Kennedy Space Center.

Astronauts Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst paired up Monday afternoon for a robotics training refresher course to maintain their skills necessary to grapple Dragon with the 57.7-foot (17.6-meter) Canadarm2. The duo will be in the Cupola at the robotics workstation monitoring Dragon’s approach and rendezvous Tuesday morning before capturing the spacecraft and berthing it to Harmony.

Live NASA TV coverage begins 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday as Gerst and Wiseman carefully guide the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple Dragon at 7:04 a.m. The duo will then maneuver Dragon to its berthing spot on the Harmony node where it will stay for a month of cargo transfers.

Wiseman started his day setting up exercise and ultrasound gear for the SPRINT experiment inside the Harmony node. Gerst then assisted Wiseman with ultrasound scans of the thigh and calf on his right leg. SPRINT is a long-running study that is exploring the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function during long-duration space missions.

Station crew members combine their exercise with diet to not only counteract the effects of living in space but also reduce the stress of atmospheric re-entry and speed up the adaptation to Earth’s gravity. Mission scientists analyze an astronaut’s condition before, during and after a mission and have reported returning crew members are experiencing less than 1% muscle and bone loss.

Gerst, a German astronaut from the European Space Agency, worked throughout Monday inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory activating gear for the Zebrafish Muscle experiment. He set up a camcorder and reconfigured equipment inside the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack that houses the Aquatic Habitat. Researchers are using Zebrafish in space to observe the molecular changes that cause muscles to atrophy in microgravity. Results may benefit not only astronauts on long term missions but also citizens here on Earth with limited mobility.

Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev focused on maintenance on the Russian side of the International Space Station.

He began his day inside the Poisk docking compartment cleaning fan grilles and air ducts. Suraev then floated over to the Zarya cargo module for more ventilation work cleaning grilles and replacing dust filters.

After lunch, the commander worked maintenance on the SOZh life support system inside the Zvezda service module. He then moved on to the Rassvet mini-research module for more ventilation cleaning work.

Dragon isn’t the only vehicle on its way to park at the orbital laboratory. The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft is counting down to a Thursday afternoon launch for a six-hour, four-orbit ride to the station’s Poisk module. It will bring Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev and Flight Engineers Barry Wilmore and Elena Serova to join Expedition 41 and expand the crew to six returning the station to full operations.

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